Smith, Stevenson get to work against Zion-Benton
Just as the Zion-Benton defense did with him, Stevenson sophomore Justin Smith had his hands full on Saturday night.
He lugged out a large green and gold ball bag as he exited the Patriots' locker room.
It's called paying your dues, or what the youngest guy on the varsity has to do.
"Yeah, I've got to bring the balls out, put them away, gather everything up in the locker room," Smith said. "I've got to put things away at practice."
Smith also put away a thunderous alley-oop dunk. It was part of his 15-point outing that helped Stevenson earn an 87-64 victory over host Zion-Benton. The Patriots, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, remain unbeaten in the state of Illinois. Overall, they are 19-2 and 8-0 in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division.
"I just went up and dunked it and it felt good," said Smith, who estimates he's registered 25 dunks since he began his varsity career last year as a freshman. "Parker (Nichols) threw a great pass, but I still couldn't believe that I got it to go even though I've had a couple of those (alley-oops) already this year."
By the time Smith threw down his dunk late in the fourth quarter, the game was already well in control for Stevenson, which got double-figures out of four players.
Senior guard Connor Cashaw led the Patriots with a game-high 24 points while point guard Jalen Brunson added 23 points. Guard Matt Johnson finished with 12 points.
Cashaw helped Stevenson take firm control in the third quarter by scoring 12 of the 19 total points the team scored over those eight minutes.
Stevenson had a 9-point lead at halftime (42-31) and was up by 14 points heading into the fourth. The game was tied at 26 about three minutes into the second quarter, but the Patriots scored the next 6 points and never trailed again.
"It might be as good as he's played (this season)," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said of Cashaw. "He attacked the basket so hard and really had a high motor, especially his offensive game. He was aggressive."
Cashaw managed that in spite of drawing a difficult defender in Admiral Schofield, who is 6-foot-6 and built as solid as a truck.
"Connor was going against a very strong player, but he's stronger this year, maybe five to 10 pounds stronger," Ambrose said. "He took contact and he didn't get knocked down."
Schofield finished with 15 points. The Zee-Bees also got a team-high 21 points from Damarquis Henry 13 points from Devonte Maynard.
Both Henry and Maynard opened with 7 points apiece in the first quarter to help the Zee-Bees take a 19-14 lead into the second quarter.
"It was a good first eight minutes," Zion-Benton coach Bob Worthington said. "We hit some shots and got some good stops. It's our home floor, a division game. You don't need much more to get up and be ready for a game like this.
"But in the third quarter, all we did was trade baskets with them. Against a team that's this good, that not enough. And they did what really good, senior-(oriented) teams do late in the game."